Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pleasure and Pain - Elixir in the Opus Hotel, Yaletown

I had this amazing meal at Elixir Restaurant in the Opus Hotel in Yaletown...delicious, beautiful, interesting, deeply flavoured, perfectly served...a real pleasure. But a real pain came later...intense abdominal pain, fevers, chills, and the urge to poop within two hours of the meal. I did let the restaurant know, through email, and got a follow up reply asking me to call. I called and left a message, and then hadn't heard from them again. Oddly enough, I'm not holding a grudge...the meal was that good. Maybe it was because I was dining with Instant Noodle Girl, and her Cordon Bleu graduate hubby, who are great fun to overanalyze a meal with, but all the flavours and presentation really seemed to pop that night. Instant Noodle Girl and I even checked out the much talked about washrooms together at one point. They have a transparent wall disguised somewhat with a beaded curtain separating the men's and women's washroom, so presumably, you could give the hottie washing their hands on the other side of the wall a wink while you're washing yours. Unfortunately, there weren't any men to be silly with on the other side on our visits to the washroom. And yes, one of the urinals is visible from the women's side, if you're wondering. The mirrored wall above the sink featured cool blue lights, and mini monitors embedded at eye level so that you can check out the action in the Opus Hotel Lobby.

As trendy and pretentious as Yaletown has a reputation to be, this little modern French bistro was warm, cosy and welcoming. There are three rooms to choose from, one of which has dramatic red velvet banquettes, another is more of a summery, feminine patio, and the one we dined in is the main area, includes the bar, and has that French bistro feel, with leather banquettes, and brass bars.

Service was outstanding, with the manager making us feel like he was really taking care of us. I'm just guessing that he was the manager, with my clue being that he wasn't dressed in some ultra chic all black outfit as the other servers were. It IS a bit intimidating to see the servers better dressed than you are, but again, I felt only warmth, instead of pretension that evening. With this being a quiet night due to the fireworks, and this place being a fine dining restaurant, the service was really perfect, as it really should be at this level of dining. This is the kind of place that you will return to a neatly folded napkin, if you make a trip to the washroom. They were enthusiastic about the food, and the timing was great. Probably the only thing that could be improved was just checking on our water a little more frequently. They had the bottle of bubbly Vos water that we ordered in an ice bucket out of reach, which meant that we were dependent on the servers to repour. On the subject of drinks, I had the Serendipity cocktail, which was heavy on the sparkling wine, and lighter than I expected on the flavours from the Calvados, apple juice, and fresh mint. But let's talk about the food!

Amuse Bouche of Chilled Organic Tomato Soup

I really enjoyed this shot of chilled soup to start. It was sweet and tasty, and we tried to guess what went into it. I think we decided there must have been some garlic in it, but whatever it was, we all enjoyed it.

White Walla Walla Onion Soup

I couldn't stop saying "Walla Walla" all night long. This soup was a seasonal special. And we found out that Walla Walla's are sweet onions from Washington's Walla Walla Valley. They are available mid-June to September. Quite a nice soup, and very different from a traditional "French onion soup."

Tuna Tartare Special

I didn't order this one, but I had a bite and it was tasty. There were some really nicely balanced Asian flavours here that I can't remember exactly, like miso, and maybe sesame.

Tomato Tarte Tatin with Avocado Sorbet ($12)

This is the starter that I ordered, off of the Petit Plats menu. It was very sweet, and caramelly, just like a regular apple tart tatin. Definitely the first tomato tarte tatin I've ever had, and the avocado sorbet with it was light and lovely. It was still a bit like starting dinner with a dessert, but that's kind of fun. Not an appetizer for someone who doesn't like sweets, but for me, it was great. Really interesting, and different, yet familiar at the same time since it's based on a very traditional French bistro dish.

Pan Seared Wild Salmon with Sweet Corn and Green Onion Risotto and Tomato-clam Vinaigrette ($29.95)

Doesn't this dish look inviting? Beautifully cooked salmon - moist, and tender, not overcooked at all, but still with a great crispy skin.

Ahi Tuna with Coriander and Fennel Crust with Blackberry Ginger Gastrique, Roasted Cippolini Onions and Sauteed Collards ($30.95)

Assiette of Duck - Confit, Breast and Ravioli, with Armagnac Jus ($30.95)

This was my dish, and I loved it! I also suspect this might have been where the food poisoning occurred, because my dining companions didn't have any of this one, and they were fine. The armagnac jus with the duck breast was delicious (cooked medium rare, which the servers made a point of checking with me about), and I loved the creamy sauce under the confit leg too. And the duck ravioli was delicious, with a wonderful chewy pasta wrapping. And I loved the baby veggies too.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake with Blackcurrent Sorbet ($9)

I really enjoyed the bite I had of this lemon curd cheesecake.

Warm Chocolate Cake with Caramel Cardomom Ice Cream ($10)

My warm chocolate cake, with a gooey centre and a very nice cardomom ice cream was the perfect end to a very decadent meal. They made me a nice Americano when I asked for coffee. Their teas are loose leaf. All the little nice details add up to a wonderful place to have a substantial dinner. It won't be cheap, but I feel like it's worth it. I've only had one visit so far, but I'd definitely like to return. I can't imagine that I would get sick again, but I'll let you know if I do. Perhaps I just need to work on my fat tolerance? It was a very rich meal, but the fat and sugar is what makes it taste so good! Go ahead, splurge a little, calorically and monetarily.


linda said...

The meal sounds wonderful. Sucks taht you got sick. You might want to think about what you had before Elixir ~ food poisoning doesn't always shows itself that quickly. i think it is usually six to 24 hours after ingestion that the sickness happens. I don't work for Elixir and I am not try to defend them or anything, just thought you might be interested to hear that.

linda said...

Oh, and you should check with a doctor or the HEalth inspector after suffering food poisoning. They can quarintine a sample of the suspected irritant and test it. Helps prevent someone else getting sick.

Dumpling_Girl said...

Hi Linda,
Thanks for the info. I was using the BC Healthwise Handbook for information. "Symptoms of food poisoning may begin as soon as 1 or 2 hours or as long as 48 hours for common food poisoning." It started 2 hours after a 2.5 hour meal. Also, just wanted to say that I did go through everything that I ate that day, and nothing else raised an alarm. I don't remember everything now, but I remember eating very lightly, and nothing really prepared. An orange, coffee, that sort of thing. And I ate my entire meal, so I'm not sure how I could get them to quarantine a sample? It could be as simple as bacteria left over on a cutting board, touching something that was in my meal, but not anyone else's. Anyhow, I was alone and in extreme pain, mostly in the bathroom, and suffering most of the night. If it ever happens again, I still don't think I'd be able to make a phone call during that. It would have been nice to have my phone message returned to have some resolution in the matter though, but my initial email was in the spirit of helping the restaurant remedy their own problem so that other people don't get sick. I guess that I could have called the health inspector, but I didn't choose to go that route, to save the restaurant some hassle. Here's hoping there's not a next time, but if there is, I might consider that.

linda said...

I am sorry taht you got poisoning from the restaurant ~ sounds like they were the culprit for sure. They should have been all over your complaint. When I worked at the Stock Market, we responded immediately, usually offering refunds, compensation, free meal, whatever, even if we were 99% sure it wasn't us. It was easier to quarantine samples there, people usually remember what soup they had and we only ever had five things to choose from.
I hope it doesn't happen again; I have recently battled through a couple bouts of very painful poisoning myself.

Andrea Busse said...

Mark and I went to Walla Walla Washington. Apparently he wanted to go because of the wine tasting opportunities and the restaurants. I wanted to go just so I could say "Walla Walla Washington" a bunch of times!! We did hit a GREAT restaurant though - Whoopemup Hollow Cafe.